Britain asks US to return suspect held in Afghanistan

21st December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain has asked the US to return a suspected insurgent being held without charge in Afghanistan to its custody after a court ruled that his detention violated an ancient British law, the government said Wednesday.

British troops captured Pakistan national Yunus Rahmatullah, 29, in Iraq in 2004 before handing him over to US authorities. Rahmatullah was then transferred to Afghanistan where he is currently being held without charge.

The Court of Appeal ruled last week the suspect must be returned to British jurisdiction under the ancient law of habeas corpus, which forces authorities to bring a prisoner to court or explain their absence.

Britain's Foreign Office (FCO), which does not want to force the US to hand over Rahmatullah, wrote to the US government within 48 hours of the ruling to request Rahmatullah's return.

The British government cannot appeal against the ruling but is able to appeal against the legal principles of the judgment.

Habeas corpus -- Latin for "you may have the body" -- was introduced in the Middle Ages and helped restrict monarchs' ability to secretly dispose of rivals.

The Court of Appeal's ruling extended the application of the law to British activities abroad after lawyers argued that Britain was still legally responsible for Rahmatullah's welfare.

"(We have) obtained leave to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court," an FCO spokesman said Wednesday.

"In the meantime, in compliance with the court's writ, Her Majesty's government continues to be in correspondence with the US government."

Reprieve, the legal charity which brought the case, called on US President Barack Obama to honour the request.

"The Obama administration has said it wishes to restore US standing abroad and to bring the US back into line with the Geneva Conventions -- well, there is no time like the present," said Cori Crider, the charity's legal director.

© 2011 AFP

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